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Parnassos, Greece
March 31st 2014
Greece is normally associated with summer holidays so I thought it would be fun to compete in a ski race in Greece and it was going to be worth the journey because there were 4 races (2 x SL and 2 x GS)!

We arrived in Parnassos after dark.  The following morning I trained with the Greek National team.  This is when we were advised that 2 of the races had been cancelled.  Different reasons were given for this but the annoying fact was that I was only going to get to do 2 races instead of 4.

The races' organsation left a lot to be desired.  Actually, calling it "disorganised" would be an offence to disorganisation!  There was no concept of running to time (even the TCM) so much so that many of the attendees were late, because they knew the meeting would start late!  The condition of the slopes was appalling.  I don't know of any resorts I have skied at for years where they don't have snow-making machines, but there were none in Parnassos despite it being a decent-sized resort.  The lifts were at least 40 years old and there was only 1 functioning piste basher!   However, the course was well prepared for the competition itself.

The race hill in Parnassos.

On the second day of training the hill was closed because of poor visibilty, snow and wind.  Instead, I did morning and afternoon sessions in the gym.  By day 3, the hill was open again and I was able to train.  At the Captain's meeting, they drew for SL and GS because they weren't sure what type of race they would be able to run; I was drawn with bib 3 for both races!  

In the event, the first race was the GS, as planned. A big mistake at the first banana gate in the first run nearly caused me to come out of the course completely.  However, I did manage to hang on to finish the run although I lost 2 or 3 seconds.  I was confident that I could do much better in the second run (as long as I made no significant mistakes).  The second run went very well and I finished just 0.02 seconds off the winner, overall, to achieve my first FIS podium; in 2nd place.  I was very happy with this although mildly disappointed to have just missed out on an overall win.

In 2nd place on the podium.

Unbelievably, I was drawn bib 3 again for the next day's Slalom race!  I was very confident going into the start.  However, I had way too much adrenaline and I really messed up the first half a dozen gates, causing me to lose a lot of time.  I had a better 2nd run, though, and managed to improve my position by ending up 4th.

In the start for the Slalom.

Since the races ended earlier than we had expected it meant that, rather than having a couple of hours to look around Athens we also had a full extra day.  The weather was lovely; in the low 20 degrees centigrade.  It was very nice to be able to sit outside for dinner and to feel the buzz of the place.  

With my medal in Athens (the Acropolis lit up in the background).

We visited the Acropolis museum and the Acropolis itself.  We wandered around the Flea Market and we also went to see the 1896 Olympic Stadium which was constructed entirely from marble and so which is still in remarkably good condition.  Whist there, we got to see torches from past Olympics including London 2012 and Sochi 2014.  I even managed to hold on to the London torch for a minute or two!

Holding the London 2012 torch.

I came away with a great impression of the friendly people of Greece and a desire to spend a summer holiday there ...